Chandigarh crossed the 10,000-mark of COVID-19 cases on September 20. As the surge of cases continues, the pressure on PGIMER, which was declared a dedicated COVID hospital for testing and treatment of suspected and confirmed COVID patients, is rising.
Apart from treating COVID patients, the institute is also providing patient care services to non-COVID patients coming to the hospital from across north India. The patient load on PGI, which also provides OPD services to around 2,000 patients through tele-consultations and physical OPDs to cancer, liver, kidney patients, has increased manifold. In the emergency OPD, against the bed strength of 110 patients, there are more than 185 patients, with around 167 patients in ATC, against the bed strength of 100 beds, taking the occupancy rate to approximately 200 to 250 per cent, with the institute working to its maximum capacity.
This pressure, a lack of system and protocols to contain the spread of infection within PGI, explains a senior doctor here, has resulted in the premier institute becoming a hotspot of infection.
“There is inter-mingling of patients as there are 40-60 patients or health care workers testing positive within PGI daily. In the emergency, the report comes after eight to 12 hours, and till then there’s no segregation of patients. Even with a positive report, it takes four to 12 hours to shift a patient to Nehru Hospital Extension. Second, unless all attendants or relatives are tested, we are allowing unknown individuals inside PGI. Very often patients in wards test positive after 10-20 days after acquiring infection in PGI. So far, over 60 residents and over 12-15 faculty have tested positive, 25 plus in kitchen and other staff in Kairon Block, Nursing College, Medical Education Cell. The Gastro ICU had cases thrice, ward twice, liver ICU twice, main OT a few times, neurosurgery and neurosurgery and trauma too,” he said.
Also, for the last one month, there have been frequent reports of people testing positive almost daily on the PGI campus.
With almost negligible checks on people who can enter the PGI, attendants or relatives accompanying the patients to the hospital are not tested for COVID and one positive person has the potential to infect many in such a situation. Last week, according to a doctor, more than 61 patients tested positive in the emergency of different wards, and despite bringing this matter up several times with hospital authorities, no plan of action has been chalked out to test attendants, relatives and patients before they come to the hospital.
The doctor points out how at the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, a system has been devised where only two attendants are listed with a patient, once they have tested negative, they are allowed inside the hospital, with no free access to the hospital allowed. The tests at PGI, adds the doctor, can be subsidised for these attendants, who can be given a card or ID when they test negative and then allowed inside the hospital. This small step will save doctors, health care workers and other patients from getting infected.
In these times, he adds, a free flow of people cannot be allowed. Also, even when patients test negative, their attendants change after a week, and new people come in and there is no check to ensure they are not positive. In a case in a hospital in New York, a nurse travelled to Florida without informing the hospital authorities and resumed work. She was COVID positive and spread the infection to patients and doctors. “PGI has about 13,000 employees, with their families at home. Add to that their friends, colleagues, relatives and we have a large number of people who are connected. It is paramount that infection is controlled here, and it’s a serious issue which needs immediate attention,” the doctor said.
In a recent move, the PGIMER has requested the neighbouring states to take care of COVID positive patients at their state hospitals, health care institutes, with PGIMER providing assistance in case of requirement through tele-consultation for management of these patients. In emergency cases, critical patients can be sent to PGIMER for further treatment with prior consultation with specialists at the hospital, and the admission will be done after a prior COVID test of the patients and attendants.
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